By NEMS Daily Journal
The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to approve the completion of construction of the Unit 1 reactor at the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant site near Scottsboro in northeastern Alabama.
The plant will help ensure adequate generating capacity for the whole valley region and its nine million customers.
Bellefonte was originally scheduled to come on line in the 1980s, but in 1988 TVA mothballed construction because of costs and less-than-forecast power demand.
The authority, with aging coal-fired plants in a phaseout program, and huge environmental mandates from carbon fuel generation, is taking the logical step in completing one of its previously planned reactors.
Interest in completing at least one reactor unit has been under discussion within TVA for several yeas, and original plans were reinstated in 2009.
The new reactor, which would not come on line until 2018 to 2020, would add significantly to the generating capacity of TVA, which provides electricity for every Northeast Mississippi county and more than 20 others in the eastern and north central part of the state.
The reactor would provide power equivalent to 750,000 homes in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.
The Bellefonte design would weather 200 mph winds and an 8.9 magnitude earthquake, TVA CEO Tom Kilgore has said. The Tennessee Valley service area has not experienced an 8.9 magnitude earthquake since the early 19th century when the New Madrid fault shifted and reshaped the landscape of several states and the course of the Mississippi River.
The unanimous board vote, which of course included former Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth, who was recently confirmed and sworn as a corporate director, signifies great confidence in the ability to rehabilitate the site and add state-of-the-art technology. The new reactor would be safer than anything that would have been built 20-plus years ago.
Several dozen anti-nuclear power activists spoke against the plant, but most speakers at the public hearing portion of the meeting were supportive, east Tennessee news Websites reported.
The vote came during the scheduled board meeting, which followed the public listening session.
Board members amended the resolution to say that construction on Bellefonte would not begin until after the fuel loading at Watts Bar 2 is complete, a project forecast to finish in December 2012.
The Unit 1 reactor is expected to cost $4.9 billion. About $1.9 billion in assets exist at the site on the Tennessee River.
TVA has a total debt of about $24 billion and a $30 billion debt ceiling.